The Leafs head to Boston tonight for the second of back-to-back games. They haven’t beaten the mighty Bruins in over two years. This is the second matchup between the two Eastern Conference foes this season. Boston won the first matchup 1-0. Thus, Toronto might find its pride on the line when the puck drops at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) After falling off the radar a bit, Phil Kessel exploded for three points last night against the Ottawa Senators. He collected his sixth goal and fourteenth assist of the season, which gives him a total of 20 points in 24 games. He’s also second now for points on the team, trailing only Nazem Kadri who has 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists). The Leafs’ would surely love for Kessel to build from this performance and there’s no better team from Kessel’s perspective to burn than the Bruins. Can he carry yesterday’s explosion forward?
Kessel seems to have little luck against his former team as once again the Bruins kept him off the scorecard. Is this the beginning of another scoring slump for the young American winger?
2) James Reimer is projected to get the start tonight – his fourth consecutive start since returning from injury. The score of yesterday’s game – a 5-4 final for the Leafs – might suggest a poor performance from Reimer despite getting the win, but it was really Reimer who kept the Leafs in the game. The Leafs had absolutely no right winning the game after they decided to forfeit the third period. Reimer was left alone on 3 shots just outside his crease, which speaks to huge failures on the defence’s part. Nonetheless, it’s clear head coach Randy Carlyle and the rest of the coaching staff have put their faith in Reimer. After all, Reimer kept the Bruins to one goal earlier this season. Does Reimer justify the coaching staff’s faith in him?
Ben Scrivens actually got the start in a surprise, last minute decision. He allowed three goals on 24 shots. Enough said.
3) The Leafs find themselves with a record of 15-9-0 at the midway point of the season. They’re currently in a secure playoff spot, but a win over Boston tonight would propel them into a tie with the Montreal Canadiens for first overall in the Eastern Conference. Is Toronto able to move up the Eastern Conference standings?
Toronto lost valuable ground to Boston and Montreal, who both earned two points on the night.
4) Today all the talk in Boston concerned Toronto’s newfound toughness under Carlyle. Bruins head coach Claude Julien called the Leafs a “legitimate contender” while Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic spoke about Frazer McLaren’s beatdown of David Dziurzynski last night. Lucic and McLaren are no strangers when it comes to fights – they’ve fought each other in the past. How does Toronto’s added degree of toughness and contender status factor into tonight’s game?
The other (Mark) Fraser on the Leafs got into a fight, but it was a relatively tame game on the whole.
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